Saturday, March 3, 2018

Snorkeling San Andres: Urchins and Octopus

 Snorkeling the lagoon behind the reef at San Andrés can be summed up in one word: urchins. In one area, we saw dead urchins everywhere, and we wondered what might be going on. It seems, however, that that area was merely the graveyard, because on our next snorkel we saw more urchins (live!) than we’ve ever seen in one place, great aggregations of the spiny critters. It really was pretty amazing, but that’s not all there was. I spied a mantis shrimp, so called because of the resemblance of their sharp forelimbs to those of the preying mantis. They’re also known as ‘thumb splitters’ because they’ll use those aforementioned forelimbs to slice open your fingers if you grab them. Needless to say, we did no grabbing. To top it off, I spotted an octopus tucked down into the crevice of a rock. Our sightings were helped by the fact that the lagoon is shallow – only about 4-5 deep over much of the area – so we were up close and personal with the bottom dwellers.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

San Andrés Public Art

Beautiful mural

I love exploring a new place and happening upon public art, be it mural, sculpture, etc. It makes me feel that the people really care about their surroundings. San Andrés had some great examples.
Great iguana mural

Three-dimensional art!

The plaza around this wonderful barracuda statue was undergoing renovations, but this was a great marker for a major intersection

Even the advertisements were eye-catching

Saturday, February 10, 2018

San Andrés, Colombia

Large hotels along the San Andres waterfront

San Andrés is an anomaly among most of the small Caribbean islands we’ve visited. First, as I mentioned in my previous post, it’s got a beautifully marked channel that draws you right in, undoubtedly intended for the tankers that come in to the Texaco dock, but no less helpful for the cruising boat. Then, there are all those tall buildings bunched up on the north end of the island…definitely not a usual island site. San Andrés is to Colombia what Florida is to the US, a vacation haven with white sand beaches, warm water, and fruity rum drinks, but on a smaller scale. People are here to have fun – dammit – to the extent that the beach was packed despite 35-knot winds one day that made even walking along the promenade an exfoliating experience. That said, the promenade was quite nice, extending the length of the beach on the northern shore. The “city” is eminently walkable, with easy access to bars, restaurants, and shops, along with the more mundane destinations for cruisers such as ATMs and grocery stores. There’s even a movie theater where we tried several times to see the new Star Wars installment, but they only show movies in English every other Thursday night at 9:30 pm (which we only discovered after showing up on several wrong nights, and then it was gone). Restaurant prices were pretty good, and seafood is on most every menu, not surprising for an island – La Regatta and Captain Mandy’s were our favorites. San Andrés is also different from many islands in that the major bay is on the windward side. A long reef protects the beaches and harbor on the north and northeast sides of the island from the huge seas that can build when you’ve got days of 30+ knots of wind. From outside, though, the reefs are more dangerous than protective, as evidenced by the numerous shipwrecks.

But they also had beautiful beaches
And who doesn't need a cocktail while they lounge in the sand

This has got to be the smallest car we've ever seen

But scooters and motorbikes are the vehicle of choice around here
A reef is great protection...unless you run into it

All that was on this little island were bars and tourists

Monday, February 5, 2018

Christmas Decorations

Colored balls decorating a palm tree in Bocas del Toro

Frankly, it’s difficult for me to get in the holiday mood in the tropics. Growing up in New England, it was often a white Christmas, and I’m talking snow, not sand. It seems that I’m not the only one to equate snow with Christmas, as evidenced by some of the decorations we see in places where the only ice you’ll find is in your tropical drink. Anyway, here are a few examples that we caught during this most recent holiday season, some of which were just taken down in the last week or so (it’s late January).

Nene's Marina in San Andres discovers new ways to use cans and bottles for holiday decorations

Car tires repurposed as a snowman
One of the creepy blow-up elves that populated the streets of San Andres
Sea-side nativity scene on the dock in Providencia